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How digital tools can grow your construction business
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How digital tools can grow your construction business
Digital capability is becoming increasingly important for New Zealand businesses, including industries across the construction sector. Learn about what tools and support are available for the sector and understand the benefits of digitsing your business.
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This webinar was recorded on 8 September 2021. It includes speakers from the government-funded Digital Boost programme, Chatterton Builders, Mill Electrical and Summerset New Zealand.
This video is a direct recording of the webinar, which includes footage of the speakers as they talk. It also features some slides and video footage, provided by the represented companies, interspersed throughout the webinar.
Gordon Harcourt: Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Nau mai, nau mai haere mai ko Gordon Harcourt ahau. Kia ora, welcome, I'm Gordon Harcourt.
This is the latest webinar in the Construction Sector Accord's series of Towards High Performance. As you know, the Accord is a partnership between industry and government towards a high performing sector.
Today it's all about digital tools and how you can help them to make your construction business perform better. We're partnering with the government funded Digital Boost Programme to discuss how using digital tools can improve the online capability of your construction industry business. We will have stories of businesses in our sector that have really picked up the digital ball and run with it. We'll look at how you could do the same with stuff like free online courses.
We'll be hearing from the Construction Sector Accord, the government's Digital Boost programme and those business stories from the Chatterton Builders, Summerset New Zealand and Mill Electrical.
Next up, Evelyn Seewald from Digital Boost, government funded programme. Kia ora, Evelyn, thanks for joining us.
Evelyn Seewald: Thanks for having me. It's a real pleasure to be involved in sharing, I guess the digital experience with the construction industry, I'm looking forward to sharing some of our insights.
Gordon Harcourt: So, Digital Boost has over 35,000 users, I'm one of them. It's designed to help keep our businesses to learn how to use digital tools, digitise your business, reach more customers, grow productivity, grow your business. So, first up, Evelyn, tell us more about Digital Boost and why it was created.
Evelyn Seewald: So, Digital Boost came about out of the last round of lockdowns where MBIE really recognised the need for small New Zealand businesses to improve their digital capability. I think it really just highlighted, I guess the gap that we had for small businesses and not just their understanding but their actual readiness and fluency with digital.
So, we launched Digital Boost this January and have now got about 35,000 small New Zealand businesses, whether that's sole traders or owner operators, or in some cases, those that are, I guess, really in the early stages of starting their business. And I guess the Digital Boost experience was looking at how we can give small business owners really easy to digest content that is useful and helping them in I guess, kind of in a self-guided way, look at the things that they wanted to improve digitally.
For example, we've got six different learning categories, whether that's around websites or around digital marketing or digital tools. And particularly as it relates to the construction industry, everyone thinks of digital justice, you know, the front end of things, but really we recognised that there was quite a gap in people's use and understanding of the small business accounting and just general digital tools that help run efficient businesses. So, the content is basically, there's a few, I think we're just around 500 odd videos now that are all sort of, most of them are three to five minutes in length.
So, ideally suited to small business owners and sole traders who are poor on time. So, it's kind of those digestible, bite-sized bits of content. We also run a daily Q and A session five days a week with, I guess, industry experts, whether that's the global players, like you know, the Googles and the Facebooks, or some of our local providers who are, you know, equally providing great content and capability in that digital space. So, yeah, it's been an incredible journey for us just to see how small businesses have evolved and the things that they're doing to actually just really arm themselves and get themselves much more capable and fluent in that digital space.
Gordon Harcourt: Digital trends. What can you tell us? What's the big picture for the construction sector?
Evelyn Seewald: So, in terms of trends, there's, I guess, trends at a whole bunch of levels. One where we're just seeing the general, I guess, digitization, which is people move on from paper to digital solutions. And unfortunately that's probably where the majority of people are at, which is really actually kind of adopting digital as a way of doing business. And I guess really some of the other trends that we're seeing and why it's becoming so important to think more digitally is the, you know, the use of social and the, I guess, really the way that we're moving, not just in New Zealand, but globally to digital solutions is just really astounding.
And, you know, we're seeing trends in all industries where people are moving much more to getting their information online and certainly for construction, ratings or business, or finding businesses and how businesses are rated and how people are selecting who they want to use and who they consider professional and worth connecting with. Through to, I guess, really at the high end in construction, we've got the digitalization, which is really that next layer of how do you actually, once you have got everything online, how do you actually start doing things that really, really up the game and whether that's robotics or 3D or, you know, just really thinking about how to drive really streamlined and professional business operations. Those would be some of the trends that we're seeing at the moment.
Gordon Harcourt: So, how can Digital Boost help people in our sector to upscale digitally? Are there construction specific tools and how do you get started with them?
Evelyn Seewald: So, what we've seen, as I mentioned, we've got a little over 35,000 people who've signed up for Digital Boost and of that, about 5,000 are are actually existing people who are in the construction industry. And I'll tell you a little bit about what they're telling us about what they are wanting to learn and the things that they have learned. Guess we look at sort of that general level of industry capability and what we're seeing is that, you know, most businesses are in the construction industry are really keen to understand tools that can help them out. And, you know, whether that's, you know, streamlining or things that can save time, things that reduce errors, things that reduce risk are really, really important, I guess, in the construction industry, based on the feedback that we're getting.
So, we've got a lot of content, which is geared around that, whether that's, you know, specific tools that are available, whether they're things like Fergus or Tradify, or, you know, other useful tools, we've also got a lot of information on, just the small business accounting packages and that's what gets really where we're seeing a huge, huge opportunity in the construction industry. We've seen lots of cases where businesses are just completely, you know, on just using paper to run their business, whether that's time sheets, whether that's the way that they manage their cash flow, whether that's the way they're quoting jobs, everything's quite manual. And the risk that comes with that, both from a financial and the planning and just your customer reputation, risk, I guess, really associated with not having a lot of that streamlined, we've even had some businesses who've told us that the first time they really know whether they've made a profit is, you know, at the year end when they do the annual accounts.
Where we're finding that those digital tools are helping is really just around that providing much more structure, much more streamlining of processes, and much more visibility of what's happening in your business. We are also seeing quite a demand for that front-end, helped me to promote my business. And so that whole digital tools space has also been quite an attractive proposition for people in the construction space. You know, whether that's that, you know, how do people find you, everyone really should have a web presence, whether you're, you know, just a one man band, one woman band, or, you know, just a growing business, what do people think when they find you digitally?
And if you've just got a Facebook page, what's on there, but equally it's probably better to get your own digital presence. And getting ratings on Google or by whatever means or references digitally is really, really making a business, or a big difference in terms of how businesses are, filling their pipelines and really setting themselves up for success. So, hopefully that gives you a bit of a flavour of the types of things that are available within Digital Boost for the construction industry. One of the other things that we've also tried to do is there's a lot of, you know, learning to be done, but there's nothing quite like seeing others in your industry who are going through the same things you are or aren't. I guess, seeing the benefits of digital.
So, we've really worked hard to find real-world stories. And we've got a whole segment on our platform called real-world stories, which are broken down by industry and progressively we're just adding more and more of those case studies, where industries or businesses like you, or me who have tried to make that transition to digital can share the stories of how it's actually helped them. And I think that's really, really hit a, hit a mark for a lot of businesses, because it's quite often easy to think that this is something, you know, just for big companies or just for people who want to spend a lot of money and build a website. But this gives, I guess, businesses a chance to really get a sense of how others are using digital.
Gordon Harcourt: So, what are the benefits of going digital that can be applied across the construction sector?
Evelyn Seewald: I think that in terms of universal benefits, the reality is the world is moving digital. And certainly COVID has accelerated that. I think New Zealand, we're in a second lockdown now, which is you know, for another, however many weeks that ends up taking us. But the rest of world has had to adjust in a completely different way. And I kind of liken it to, you know, New Zealand's been able to put on the backup generator when we've gone into lockdowns and, you know, do sort of work arounds or get ready for when we come out of lockdown, the rest of the world has moved to digital more than half of the world is on social media, for example. And the way that we connect with each other, the way that we expect to connect has really changed. Moving to the cloud is just now par for the course. And the way that you engage just needs to change.
What I would touch on though, is that digital can seem a bit daunting and overwhelming, people don't know where to start, or I guess really there's way too many stories of people who've been burned by, you know, a web developer who's charged an extortionate amount of money. And you've ended up with nothing. What I guess, really, for people who are looking to get the benefits of digital, think about a couple of things. One, you know, what's the most important thing in your business? Is it your customers, how are you reaching them? There's how you're running your actual operations. And then there's how you're managing your risk. I think for, you know, there's no point investing in, you know, TikTok campaigns or anything like that if you're in construction, but certainly thinking about how you get maximum reach, whether that's just a simple web or a social media presence, how you get some structure into, you know, day to day operations and how you manage some of those risks.
Once you get those in place, then you can get into, you know, some of the other more sophisticated stuff, but it doesn't take a lot just to make those leaps. And that's why I really recommend within the Digital Boost platform, checking out some of the real-world stories, you know, real businesses, whether that's, you know, owner operators or, you know, medium come all the way across the spectrum, some of their experiences. And, you know, we've done that for 10 different industries that we've got real world stories for that you can, you know, see whether or not there's anything in there that's relevant for you. So, that's, I guess, really what I would suggest is as a really good way to start.
Gordon Harcourt: You know, it's easy to see why larger businesses have got to go digital, but we know that in construction, there's plenty of, you know, one bloke, one ute, one dog outfits, why should they go digital?
Evelyn Seewald: People often think that digital is a huge investment. I think that what puts small businesses off, that you need to have, you know, years worth of rollout of costs associated with going digital, small businesses almost can't afford not to go digital for a few reasons. Number one, that's where your customers are. That's, you know, yes, they can reach you by mobile via mobile phone or your email, but it's just really the level of professionalism that comes with having a digital presence, regardless of your size is really important. And you don't have to invest a lot to have a good social media presence, get good ratings and make yourself discoverable online.
And also in terms of the productivity that as a small business owner, you can, I guess really get caught up in, let's call it the paperwork or the running of the business and not actually doing the business. And I think that's what digital is invaluable for small businesses. You know, different industry, but most people don't start a cafe to do the books. Most people don't start a construction industry to you know, do the books either. And regardless of industry, being able to streamline and improve the productivity of your business, not only makes it easier for you to, you know, figure out where your money's coming from, but it also gives you back the time to do the things that you actually want to do and what you started your business for in the first place.
So, I would encourage, you know, all businesses to also become fluent in digital. Like even regardless of how far you want to venture down that digital path, the risk of being left behind is increasing, you know, not just globally, but within New Zealand as well. We know that from our data, that more than half of the people who have already signed up to Digital Boost in the construction space, who are small businesses, have a digital presence, and that's what you're competing against. So, it's not like, you know, small businesses haven't invested in digital. So, I think it's almost a necessity or, you know, it's table stakes and part of actually running a business, you have to have, you know, accounts, you have to have a digital presence. That's all there is to it.
Gordon Harcourt: Kia ora, thank you, Evelyn. Really appreciate you sharing some of these key initiatives that Digital Boost has, and the support available for businesses to upscale in digital.
Next up, Brent Chatterton. He is the managing director of Chatterton Builders, Brent, kia ora. Thank you very much for joining us.
Brent Chatterton: Yeah, thanks very much for having me.
Gordon Harcourt: Okay. We've got some questions for Brent in a moment. But firstly, here's a video that Digital Boost made about Chatterton Builders and Brent's journey expanding his digital knowledge.
Music playing – no lyrics.
Drone footage of house being built with scaffolding around it.
Brent Chatterton: Quite often there's builders who know how to build homes, but we don't know how to run businesses well. And I think using digital platforms, and cloud-based software and stuff for efficiencies now is absolutely key. You can't survive without it.
Brent Chatterton in office and working on computer.
I'm Brent Chatterton. Founder of Chatterton Builders. Ever since Chatterton Builders builds energy efficient homes and around SFS construction. So, basically it's North Canterbury. Currently we've got 12 builders on site. Make up of site foremans, builders and apprentices.
Exterior shots of a house.
Builders working on construction of a new home.
Close-ups of construction workers on site.
And then in the back end of the office here, we've got myself and my wife, Tia, she works in the business. We have a project manager, and and an admin person. We've always been pretty open to using technology, and software and stuff to try and make the homeowners experience a lot better and so, we use a project management tool called CoConstruct. It's a great online portal that we use early on in the design stage and gather all the information that the homeowners and the designers are putting together that's not on the plans. And putting it all in one place so that when we do actually come to build the project, the builders know straightaway exactly what's required and what the homeowners have selected.
Office shots and close-ups of people working in Chatterton Builders office.
The guys on site have got iPads and laptops and phones that we're able to access our cloud based software. So, the tools we use for managing our guys is one called VisTab, it's an awesome health and safety tool we use. There's tablets on every building site and it gets us away from the old days when you has to sign on pen and paper and now it's an electronic form. And with COVID now, it's a great way to trace people that are on site, so we know live and in the office who's on site and who's not and it works really, really well. It's a great tool.
Construction site of new home with builders working on site.
And then we use another project management tool called Asana which is kind of more related to the project manager and running the jobs and giving descriptions and programmes and tasks and things like that. We use Zoom a lot. Last week, we hit a homeowner, to a client that had been living in Melbourne.
Close-ups of people working in the office, looking at building plans.
Every two weeks, we would have a site meeting, and it was a Zoom meeting on site, and we were able to walk around the home and show them exactly what was going on and they just were blown away, there was no surprises. It was exactly as it was in the Zoom meetings and really happy with the result. So, the biggest social media platform we use, obviously, is Facebook, it's something we're constantly working on.
People standing and talking in a new house.
It's something that doesn't happen in five minutes and it's really interesting when you do put something up there that's really relevant and people really do resonate with it. You can see the spikes and people are going through, it's really cool. I use LinkedIn myself, I guess, mostly rather than the business, but it is related to the business and I see that platform as more business to business dealings. Following other businesses for inspiration and how they operate, I really enjoy that. And it helps grow my business when I can learn from other people.
And passwords and security, yes, has been a big eye opener, I guess recently you have been hacked in and making sure you've got that two-factor authentication now seems to be a big part of security. We did used to have physical hard drive backups, but we've now moved to cloud-based backups and we really only would lose a day if something broke down in the office here, which is really, really key to keeping your business running, so. It's a big investment we've had to do.
Brent Chatterton in office, working on computer.
Shots of computer screen showing Chatterton Builders Facebook page.
People working in office.
Yeah, I'd say definitely recommend exploring the use of Digital Boost, as a builder, because nowadays, if you're not online, and you're not accessible to the Internet, then you're really struggling to get by, so I'd definitely suggest looking into using Digital Boost.
Shots of house. People standing and talking in a new house
Text on screen: Want to know more? Visit digitalboost.co.nz(external link)
Chatterton Builders logo.
Digital Boost logo.
[Video 1 ends]
Gordon Harcourt: So, Brent, as we've just seen, you've recently signed up to Digital Boost, learn more about digital tools, how they can help your business. Why did you decide to sign up? Why do you think digital knowledge is so important in construction now?
Brent Chatterton: Really, really important. I think just keeping up with technology, I mean, being a bit older and it's lot easier for the young ones to pick up some of the technologies these days, but you've got to be pretty open to it cause it's, yeah, it's pretty key to giving our clients the best experience that's possible and I guess just being open-minded and just making sure that we've got all the best available things that we can use. It just keeps changing all the time. So, just being open-minded to new ideas and things. And seeing whether it suits our business or not, really one of the key reasons for doing that really, and being involved.
Gordon Harcourt: So, what digital tools are you using currently and how have they helped your business?
Brent Chatterton: Yes, the digital tools we currently use, guess from a financial point of view, we use Xero for accounting packages, smart payroll for wages. We use 365 Office. There's quite a few other project management tools and things we use in our building business. For example, CoConstruct which is a really good online portal system we use for our clients and communications.
Then we use other ones, another one called VisTab, which is kind of around our health and safety and what we do on building sites and being able to visibly see in the office, what's going on on their building site. A lot variety of different ones we use, Asana and some curious quarry surveying software we use as well. But yeah, all of them help our business a lot and efficiencies and being able to get access to that information from wherever we operate, obviously remotely with building sites or, you know, our office is always changing. So, that's pretty much how we use most of technology and stuff in business.
Gordon Harcourt: So, with Digital Boost, you've been looking at what other tools could be useful and how you could benefit, what have you picked up so far?
Brent Chatterton: Some of the key learnings, I think around making sure you do your homework on what you use and how you use it and what it's used for. I think it's expensive enough to get it for our staff, but I think the really expensive part is making sure that your business and your team get on board with it and that everybody uses it effectively and efficiently. So, I think one of the really big learnings is just doing your homework for a start, making sure you get the right stuff for doing whatever task you're trying to do with that software and then committing to it and making sure you use it properly and invest that time in your business to make sure it's up and running properly. I guess that's a real big one in the learnings we found.
Gordon Harcourt: And what was your advice to others in construction who are looking to upscale digitally like you had?
Brent Chatterton: Definitely as far as advice, be open to it. We've got a few older guys that work for us and sometimes they're a bit reluctant when it comes to technology, and trying to get them to buy into it is really key. I think you just gotta keep persisting with it and if it doesn't work, make sure you kind of invest the time into it to make sure it does work for what you want it to do. There are so many benefits to it, making sure whatever area it is, especially around project management, we find it a real key for being able to communicate with all the parts of the team and making sure they get all the right information. If you do get it in place and get it right, it certainly eliminates mistakes and not having that communication from the client right through to a building site and making sure it works and eliminate those choices that happen to so many of these days. It's definitely worth investing the time and money into the digital technology stuff.
Gordon Harcourt: So, that is the key challenge, isn't it? It's finding the time as a small business owner and making it a priority.
Brent Chatterton: Yeah, I guess that's the old adage isn't it? Is spending time on your business and not on it from time to time, I think it's easy to get immersed in what's going on in front of you and your business, but you've just gotta make that time every now and then to just say, "look, today, I'm just doing some development on the business".
And that's just one of those key areas where, doing the research and spending the time, you think it's not really helping your business at that stage, but it's definitely worth the investment in the long run. And it definitely pays off, that's for sure.
Gordon Harcourt: Kia ora, Brent. Thank you, some really good advice in there for other smaller medium enterprises in construction.
Next up, Nic Gold, managing director at Mill Electrical. And he's joining us from Havelock North. Kia ora, Nic.
Nic Gold: No problem. Glad to be here.
Gordon Harcourt: So, before we hear from Nic, another video Digital Boost have made, this is about Mill Electrical and their journey in Hawke's Bay. And now the Bay of Plenty and a very helpful bloke called Fergus.
Music playing – no lyrics.
Shots of ute driving up driveway and parking outside house.
Nic Gold: So, I reckon the reason that our business has grown so fast and so quickly is that we would never drop our quality to any customer, no matter if they asked us or not, our brand was more important to us than the check at the end of the day, and people relate to that and have wanted to work with us ever since.
Close-up of Mill Electrical logo on back of ute.
Nic Gold in garage/workshop.
Electrician unloading tools from back of ute.
Hi, my name's Nic Gold, the owner of Mill Electrical based here in Hawke's Bay and also in the Bay of Plenty. Back in 2014, my wife and I bought the business from Steve Mill, the original owner of Mill Electrical. He started back in 1976. That was just me and him running around in vans, doing work, currently now, six years later, there's a crew of 16 of us and it's been an amazing ride.
Electrician with their tools.
In the early days, I remember staying up till way past midnight. Keying in product codes from suppliers and what have you. My wife and I, at the same time, we had two little kids. So, it was pretty hard. And a friend of mine actually put me on to Fergus and changed our world. Invoices came directly from the suppliers and I'm loaded straight onto the job. We could load our hours onto the job while on site. We were one of the first trades in Hawke's Bay to use Fergus. And they were very open to listening to feedback about things and they've grown their product along with the needs of the people who are using it.
Nic Gold working on computer.
Text on screen: fergus.com/signup
So, one of the main reasons why Fergus appealed to us at the beginning, it was actually designed by a plumber and plumbers and electricians generally have the same type of business model that flows through from needing to be scheduled, to being in progress or to needing to be invoiced and then out to obviously debt collection and so on and so forth. That flowed through seamlessly. So, all of our staff, right down to the apprentices, have a login to Fergus and they load every day, on site, their hours. They also manage their stock levels in and out of the vans onto the jobs. And if they have to buy something from a supplier, they also manage that aspect as well.
Electrician and their tools.
Electrician working on a home.
Close-up of electrician taking photo of electrical work.
Shots of electrician using app-based project management software.
Back here in the office, we use it for our quoting. So, we do all our quotes and estimates within Fergus. We can also, from those quotes, once we do the job, back cost it, to see how well it went.
Shots of people working on computers in the Mill Electrical office.
And then one of the other major aspects with having 16 staff is our job management. In other words, our project management. So, with job scheduling, making sure that our weeks are full of work. And with that, we're able to communicate accurately with our customers, which is another very important aspect to us.
Electrician working on a home.
Close-ups of electrical wires and power socket.
So, right at the beginning, we wanted to have a presence on the web. So, we've got a friend of a friend of a friend to whip something up, pretty simple. We were lucky we had a good brand. So, the brand looked good online, no matter what we did with it, but it didn't really function very well. A couple of years later, we had it professionally produced. And then we started seeing some real traction. So much so, that we actually had to track where our referrals were coming from.
Nic Gold working on computer.
Mill electrical logo and website on computer screen.
Social media, Facebook, and now Instagram has been huge to get our brand out there and up, and by our plenty where we're just starting out, it's about people recognising the brand and knowing we're out there. Facebook and Instagram has been amazing for that. Over the last six years, we've seen exceptional growth here in Hawke's Bay and Mill Electrical stay beside us in Hawke's Bay, and continue to service our customers. And the Bay of Plenty. We will be using social media and our web page to get our brand out there. And we would like to see Bay of Plenty grow to the same size as it is in Hawke's Bay.
Shots of workshop
Nic Gold and an electrician looking at tools and electrical wires
Digital Boost logo
Text on screen: Make your move to digital digitalboost.co.nz(external link)
Text on screen: Brought to you by The Mind Lab
[Video 2 ends]
Gordon Harcourt: So, in that case, we were just saying your business has grown pretty quickly in the last couple of years, how has that complicated things, how has your business changed?
Nic Gold: Huge things have changed. So, I bought the business off the original owner and it was just him and I running around doing work and then he was supposed to retire. So, I took on one more staff and then on and on, we took more on work, needed more staff on and on. And just because I'm a good electrician doesn't mean I was a good a manager of people or a manager of a business.
So, first of all, I had to look at myself and find out what I needed to do to change in regards to training and becoming a better manager of people and business. So, I took on a business coach and he helped me remove myself from the business. So, I actually looked down at the business from kinda like a third eye point of view. From then, I could see that we needed system and procedures to allow everyone to know what they were supposed to do and when they were suppose to do it.
Gordon Harcourt: So, digital tools, what do you use now? How have they helped.
Nic Gold: From a digital space, my wife and I found ourselves spinning all hours, inputting, keying in product codes that would come in from suppliers, which we then had to allocate to jobs. And then we would obviously create the invoice and send the invoice out. That was time consuming. We had a four month old and a three-year old and my wife was still working full time. And you can imagine time was extremely precious.
So, we were using some software based project planning, but it was very clunky and took up a lot of time. And I actually got recommended a new software programme that was just starting out called Fergus. And we spent a long time looking into it, trying to figure out if it was gonna be the right fit for us. And watching YouTube tutorials and the likes. And then when we finally took the jump into that software space, I actually used it myself on the jobs that I was doing to see if it would work before we actually rolled it out to the rest of the staff. And that was, you know, three staff at that stage. And now we're 16 and still using the same software. So, I think we made the right decision.
Gordon Harcourt: And how has embracing these digital tools helped grow your business?
Nic Gold: Right. I suppose when the business started to grow and I wasn't on the tools as often, obviously in the early stages, I was the face of the business. I was out there seeing the customers most days. So, I needed a way to still be able to keep in contact with them on a regular basis. So, using social media, Facebook and Instagram, we do regularly regular posts. And we also do quarterly newsletters using MailChimp that go out to all of our customers in those newsletters, we will do some focus on aspects that the business undertakes and also we do staff profiles. So, our customers get to know our staff on a personal level. And when they see them turn up at their house, they feel familiar and secure that they know who this person is.
Gordon Harcourt: So, why do you think it's important for smaller, medium construction businesses, like yours, to do this, to go digital?
Nic Gold: In today's age, there's just so many different types of digital software out there that just provides so much ease of use within your own business, allows you to get on with what you do the best, either build a plumber or an electrician and leave the back of house, project planning and stuff to the software. You can do it from a mobile phone on site. It just frees up yourself to the work on the business, or be time with your family. And that's the most important things you can do as a start-up business.
Gordon Harcourt: Kia ora, nice one, Nic. Thank you for sharing your digital journey with us. Terrific example for others.
Finally today, James Hagen from Summerset, New Zealand, retirement village provider and of course they're a big builder, 33 villages completed during the development. Kia ora. Thank you for joining us, James.
James O'Hagan: Hi, thanks for having me. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak.
Gordon Harcourt: So, James, the national BIM, BIM manager at Summerset, that is building information modelling BIM, BIM, it's a set of technologies, processes, policies that enable construction businesses to collaboratively design, construct and operate a building or virtually. So, BIM allows you to map out projects and designs as 3D digital models. You're going to test ideas, concepts, functionality. James, why in your view is BIM technology so important for construction?
James O'Hagan: I guess BIM's become more important as technologies develop over time, sort of a brief history of BIM would be considering hand drawings were the norm up until the eighties and nineties where technology evolved and we started to use digital platforms to do 2D drawings. During the eighties and nineties, bit more as a concept. It was a theory, but yeah, I guess technology needed to evolve and develop more for it to come to fruition. And I guess, yeah, the 2000s, technology enabled us to start 3D modelling buildings.
And out of that, a whole lot of different applications for 3D models started to develop. So, BIM is heavily reliant on technology and definitely challenges traditional methods of construction and design. One of the things that's being done over the years in New Zealand is BIM and NZ survey done by EBoss Brands, and Emby. The last six years they've conducted how BIM is being used in the industry, in the country, and there's some really interesting statistics in there. And one of them is, over the last six years, a statistic around BIM use in the industry. And over the last six years, it's doubled from 34% to 68% and it's expected to continue increasing. So, I think this type of rapid adoption makes it important.
Gordon Harcourt: So, how can BIM be used in different parts of the construction sector?
James O'Hagan: So, BIM can be applied in some capacity to nearly all parts of design and construction processes. Developers, for instance, now with some applications that have been developed can generate hundreds of options for a site in a couple of hours.
In detail design and in developed design, Somerset use it for crash detection. We've developed quite a robust crash detection process. Also for visualisations, it's very useful. Also, it's almost like we've developed a method for producing a pacifier schedule, which we use for tendering purposes and by using the models, we've been able to automate most of that. Also, during construction for programming and programme sequencing of tasks on site. Models can be used for analysis on sequencing the tasks, and also in a health and safety perspective, models can be used to analyse health and safety simulations as well as training.
Also, I think a new developing area is engaging contractors earlier in the design phase, particularly with the model development. One concept that we're looking into at Somerset is that sort of joint venture. Where we have our design consultants engaging or working with our contractors and fabricators to create the models during the design phase. So, this has a few benefits, but one of them is reducing the shop drawing phase of a project, but also it produces a better coordinated set of documentation, which reduces issues on site. So, it's coming up with solutions before they eventuate on site. I think more and more technologies being developed for the AC industry and I think it's important to make sure that you use the correct tools to compliment what you're doing. Recommend always doing your research and understanding what the tool does before you implement it. Otherwise you can find yourself in some precarious situations.
Gordon Harcourt: How do you get started with BIM? What's your tips, your advice?
James O'Hagan: I guess, education and training is really critical. And I think in the first place, I'd encourage people to do their own research. BIM is always evolving with new technology. And it's important to understand the technology and processes before implementing and like going into, or implementing a BIM type of process without really understanding what's required will really put that at risk. BIM and NZ is a great resource online for information. There's lots of information there. Also another good website is B1M but also other countries around the world have been mandating BIM on a lot of the projects. UK has got a lot of resources and also some of the Scandinavian countries provide a lot of good information on how to implement BIM through a range of sectors. I think if you type in, in Google, in general, you'll find a whole list of information that can help you on your journey.
Gordon Harcourt: I thank you very much. James, Kia ora, really interesting stuff in there. And once again, BIM is BIM, Building Information Modelling. Thank you to all our speakers, today. Some really good advice about how using digital tools can improve and grow your construction business.
Thank you all for watching. Hope you got some good stuff out of it. If you have questions, the Construction Accord email is on screen, or visit the website. Visit the Digital Boost website or email them. There is heaps of really good guidance on the website. And if you're feeling nervous about, you know, starting your digital journey, just jump on and have a crack. You will not regret it. Well, that's it for today. Join us for the next in our Towards High Performance webinar. Mā te wā.
Embracing the digital world
As part of the Construction Sector Accord's Towards High Performance webinar series, the Accord partnered with the government-funded Digital Boost programme to show how using digital tools can improve your online capabilities – including marketing, accounting, risk management, project management, cashflow and operations.
Experts and construction sector businesses discussed digital trends, tools relevant for the sector, helpful tips and tricks and free online courses available for businesses looking to upskill.
We heard from businesses large and small that have embraced digital tools. They discussed what digital tools they use, how they have made a difference and shared their advice for others in the industry looking to embrace digital technology in construction.
Evelyn Seewald – Programme Lead, Digital Boost
Evelyn is a digital thought leader and currently heads Digital Boost – an MBIE initiative aimed at helping small New Zealand businesses embrace digital technologies through an online learning platform. She explained the Digital Boost programme and the benefits of using digital tools in your business.
Brent Chatterton – Managing Director, Chatterton Builders
Chatterton Builders has been building homes in Canterbury since 1998. Brent believes that in the construction industry you need to constantly learn and upskill – from new tools onsite, to new tools online. He discussed the challenges that exist in the sector and what he's found helpful for his business in the digital space.
Nic Gold – Managing Director, Mill Electrical
Mill Electrical is a growing construction business in the Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty. As the business has expanded in recent years, so has the need for more efficient digital systems and processes. Nic discussed how using digital tools, like app-based project management software, has made a difference for his business.
James O'Hagan – National BIM Manager, Summerset New Zealand
James is an expert in Building Information Modelling (BIM) with 18 years' experience in the design and construction industry in New Zealand and Australia. He explained BIM processes and concepts, and how using BIM can help your business – from planning to design and construction.